It was fitting that our trip of strong Jewish women began at Mount Herzl, where we learned about the women warriors who fought for the establishment of the state of Israel.
Thus began the JUF Women's Division mission to Israel in April-during the week of commemoration for
(Holocaust Remembrance Day) and
Israel's Memorial Day, and in celebration of
, Israel's 70th anniversary.
Forty women traveled with the group, 11 of them first-timers to Israel. During the mission, staffed by Elissa Kagan and Lindsay Gordon, we journeyed through the Old City of Jerusalem and celebrated Shabbat at the Kotel. We shared Shabbat with Bat-Galim Shaar, mother of Gilad Shaar, one of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered during the summer of 2014.
We then went to Moshav Netiv Haasara and met with Hila Fenelon, who passionately told us what life is like living near the Gaza Border and shared her optimistic outlook on why she and others on her moshav stay.
We paid a visit to the Wall of Peace, where each participant placed a tile on the wall, adding to the mosaic security wall that expresses Israel's desire to have peace with its neighbors. We went north to the Syrian border and were briefed on Israel's current security situation.
We explored Tel Aviv, where we got updates on the latest in Israeli innovation. We dined at two vineyards, listened to the sirens on Yom Hazikaron in honor of Israel's fallen soldiers, and partied on a private rooftop and beach for Yom Ha'atzamut.
We also learned about many of the programs that JUF supports in Israel. We visited Kiryat Gat, our Partnership Together region, and met with Enosh, providers of mental health care. We packed boxes with SAHI, which helps at-risk youth. We had lunch with the Orthodox girls from Tzahali, a pre-military academy, and learned about their gap year program before they join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
We met with Lesley Sachs from Women of the Wall and visited United Hatzalah Ambucycle headquarters, where we learned about the organization's lifesaving free volunteer-based emergency medical services.
We heard from terror attack survivor, Ido Lazan, and his mom, and learned how NATAL-Israel's Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War-helped him with his recovery. We were also fortunate to hear from an IDF Major Casualty Notification officer, who shared personal stories of what it's like to notify families of fallen loved ones.
Every speaker impacted us and left our hearts full of empathy and pride for what it means to live in Israel.
Rada Burdeen, Dana Gordon, and Lisa Roth were the Women's Mission Co-Chairs; Melissa Weiss Spellman is the JUF's Women's Board 2018 Vice President, Campaign; and Jane Cadden Lederman is JUF's Women's Board President.